A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon. Though it is unusual to telegraph plans for what could amount to a coup — though no one is calling it that — the officials all stressed that they hoped the mere threat of forming an interim government would persuade the country’s rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to make the compromises needed to end the crisis. After weeks of quietly discussing the prospect of imposing a temporary government, officials within the Karzai government said the best way out of a crisis that had emboldened the Taliban, weakened an already struggling economy and left many here deeply pessimistic about the country’s democratic future, might well be some form of interim government, most likely run by a committee.
“But what will happen if the legal institutions, if they are not working?” asked Rangin Dafdar Spanta, national security adviser to President Hamid Karzai, though he declined to explicitly back any move toward an interim government and insisted a solution to the crisis must be in line with Afghanistan’s Constitution. It often happens that when power is seized during a political crisis, as in Thailand or Egypt, those taking charge argue that the step is essential to restore order and protect democracy in the long run.
That is also the case here, where such a move is being advertised as a last resort to save democracy. It could also effectively discard the results of a presidential runoff election that, until it was derailed by allegations of fraud, had been promoted as a historic event in a country that never had a democratic transfer of power.